Scents from white flowering bushes were my first encounter of her incredible gardening skills.
I have walked by her garden countless times since I moved to a quiet neighbourhood in Vancouver. A tall chestnut tree stands guard in the middle of it. Bark mulch covers the ground where plants look wild and less manicured.
Her smile welcomed conversation as she raked leaves. Curly grey hair and a German accent complement her 89 years. Many weeks after meeting, I listened to stories of her trip alone on a ship to Canada from Germany, and her long working days on the family farm.
We found a shared interest in classical music; in the beauty of flowers and the simple pleasure of fresh garden vegetables. Not only did our interest in magnolias hold this unlikely friendship together, but so did our ache for family, health, and happiness.
After a run along the seawall one day I passed by her house. There sweeping the sidewalk was my dear neighbour. Arthritis and sore knees don’t stop her from spending time in her garden. Strength still flows through her aging body.
Inviting me to sit on her front steps, we enjoyed each other’s company; the sunset and purple rhododendrons that were starting to bloom; squirrels scampering; trees coated in gold.
Our laughter filled the air. My delight in her tender care of the plants connected us to the goodness of nature, new every season. From the steps at her red door, I looked up. A canopy of spring green leaves, and a soft spray of chestnut flowers filled the sky.
Healing can come in surprising ways. The peaceful presence of a neighbour. Time to chat. Watching her pick beets from the dirt in her garden for my dinner. It comes with listening to her own story of overcoming challenges; of rough life yet resilient soul.
Her endearing character shines through her garden and her smiling eyes. Carefree timelessness restores the soul. Being too busy all the time takes a toll on my mental health. I relish moments with Margaret, which slows me down and fills my heart with love.
After only a few years of knowing her, there is a feeling of home when I walk by her garden and see her smile. Knowing I belong to God my heavenly Father, I also feel secure. His love is like a patient gardener. He tends to the thorns and weeds found in times of depression, pruning and clipping.
When life spins out of control, he finds a way to root me in hope so I flourish again. Never a day goes by without some work. My mental health withers without care. More and more I am learning to lean on God. To surrender. To trust him in everything.
I still falter. It is an unfinished work. I like to think that I am his beloved wildflower. Storms will come; winds and rain; and bugs. But he will not leave me in darkness. He loves me and will bring me to the light.
In the book of Sirach, it says, “the Lord created medicines from the earth.” (And beautiful flowers in Margaret’s garden.)
“And a sensible man will not despise them ... By them he heals and takes away pain; the pharmacist makes them a compound.”
How marvelous that God gives us the means to be well. Skills of physicians, medicines, and loving relationships bring about healing. We can rely on the Lord, “for the sake of preserving life.” Do not give up hope. Hope in the Lord. He is with you always.
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